Kevin Spacey on Gus Boulis, Casino Jack, and Being Asked About His Sexuality
|Kevin Spacey as lobbyist Jack Abramoff|
Police quickly called the murder "a well-executed gangland-style hit," and Boulis' death is widely considered an unsolicited mob favor for Washington, D.C. superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, who later pleaded guilty and served prison time for defrauding investors in Boulis' SunCruz gambling boat business. Three men have been arrested, but the case is still nowhere close to trial.
Now the crime plays an important part in a new movie about Abramoff's life: Casino Jack, starring Kevin Spacey. A few days ago, I had the chance to talk to Spacey about the movie, about what he thinks of Gus Boulis' murder, and about people asking him if he's gay.
The movie, which was recently nominated for several Golden Globes, is a political satire. In the same vein as Oliver Stone's W and the HBO movie Recount (about the lawsuits surrounding the 2000 presidential election, it also stars Spacey), the film is an interesting comedic historical record, but it's also, essentially, a lot of Hollywood liberals psycho-analyzing the corrupt conservatives they detest. So we see Abramoff the exercise freak, Abramoff the religious family man, Abramoff the Hollywood wannabe.
Here's the trailer:
Directed by the late George Hickenlooper, the movie was shot nearly a year and a half ago with a small budget, mostly in Canada. To promote the release, Spacey, who lives in London most of the time, has spent weeks touring across America, at screenings, at festivals, doing interviews and photoshoots, and taking questions from just about anyone with a press pass.
Not long ago, a reporter for the Daily Beast asked him--pretty much out of nowhere--if he was gay. Spacey told the reporter: "Look, I might have lived in England for the last several years but I'm still an American citizen and I have not given up my right to privacy."
The self-righteous reporter (in his headshot, he's wearing a black turtleneck) went on to argue with--some would say bully--Spacey for several questions, insisting that he owes it to society and to gay teenagers to openly discuss his private life. Spacey went on to excoriate the writer, saying:
"Look, at the end of the day people have to respect people's differences. I am different than some people would like me to be. I just don't buy into that the personal can be political. I just think that's horseshit. No one's personal life is in the public interest. It's gossip, bottom line. End of story."
It's probably worth noting here: I'm all for anyone coming out, if he or she wants to. And I think hypocrites like George Rekers, of rentboy fame, need to be outed whenever possible (not that Kevin Spacey is anything like George Rekers). And I certainly understand what this reporter is saying about a public figure's social obligation. But it's also just wrong to try to push a personal agenda using someone else's private life. And that's what went on here.
Even the question was sleazy and convoluted, stretching to relate Spacey's sexuality to the Abramoff film:
"Casino Jack has a tribal motif running through it. There is Abramoff's taking advantage of the Native-American tribes and playing them off each other. There is the tribe of lobbyists in D.C., which is itself a tribal town. And there is his deep identification as a Jew that almost takes on tribal aspects in its religiosity. As I sat in the screening watching all these tribal narrative streams blend together I began to feel compelled to put this to you. We gay men have always proudly claimed you as a member of our tribe, and yet you don't proudly claim us back. Why?"
The conversation I had with Spacey covered everything from Abramoff's part in Boulis' murder to the process of dramatizing politics to the awkwardness of being asked about his sexuality.
Since I'm talking to you from South Florida, we might as well start with this movie's Fort Lauderdale connection--a mob-style hit on one of Jack Abramoff's business rivals. Don't you think the Gus Boulis murder sort of epitomizes the depths of the criminal enterprise Abramoff was (directly or indirectly) connected to?
Well I think you're trying to get me to make some line between him [Abramoff] and the tragedy that happened down there. But obviously he was never connected to that directly.
There's a great documentary by the same name, Casino Jack, that I'm sure everyone involved with this movie was familiar with. It tells the same story, but that film actually begins with the Boulis murder and uses that as a jumping off point to tell the story of Abramoff and his web of corruption that led up to that moment. That movie doesn't make any claims yours doesn't, right?
Everyone was familiar with the documentary. I've never seen it, but I knew it was out there. I just never had a chance to see it.
Yeah, well, uh...it's a good one. So, um, it seems like one of the obvious goals of this movie was to take the dark nuances and realities of politics and make them not just digestible, but pretty funny too. What's your thought process, and are there any lines you don't want to cross when your transforming reality into drama?
Basically I look at it this way: When you have stories that are based on actual events, life doesn't happen in a certain narrative and life doesn't happen in dialogue. As surely that we can be confident that Peter Morton [who wrote the screenplay for The Queen] was never hiding under a bed in Buckingham Palace, listening to the Queen talking to her husband about her daughter-in-law, what you do is you source. You source as much as you possibly can both from a legal perspective, but also from a factual perspective.
And then dramatize. That's what we do. We're not making a documentary. We're dramatizing. The episode in a certain person's life, in this case Jack Abramoff. So we didn't make up anything in terms of what happened. The events are exactly as they are. And you source enough of the people who are actual characters in the film that you get a reasonable sense of what you can dramatize that will illuminate that story but not veer off into an absolutely 'Oh we invented all this stuff.' Because the truth is, you couldn't write this shit. It's pretty remarkable.